At a time of the year when most people are thinking about putting away snow pants and cold weather clothing, Cameron Kahlua of Hillsboro is looking for “grow sizes” of winter clothing for her five children. In five months, Kahlua and husband, Kevin, are planning to move their family to Almaty, Kazakhstan where they will teach English in an American International School.
“We like adventure,” Kahlua said. “I grew up in the Congo going to an American International School. Kevin is Hawaiian. We have always known someday we wanted to get jobs overseas. It is just a surprise that things fell into place so quickly right now.”
Cameron Kahlua lived in Hillsboro off and on since she was in sixth grade and her parents, Gordon and Karen Wiebe, returned from mission service.
“I guess you could say doing something like this is in our blood,” she said. “Seven years ago while Kevin and I lived in Las Vegas, we were set to go into mission work sponsored by the Southern Baptist church there. We were surprised by twins, and ended up moving back to Hillsboro. Then we had another child, but never forgot our dream to serve overseas.”
This past December, Kevin finished his master’s degree in school counseling at Emporia State University. Cameron was already a certified teacher. They decided in February to revive their overseas dream and attended a job fair in Boston for international teachers.
“We were in Boston from Wednesday through Sunday, during that Nemo blizzard,” Cameron said. “By the time we flew back home, there was an e-mail of acceptance to Kazakhstan waiting for us.”
Kahlua said Kazakhstan was formerly part of Russia and is the ninth largest country in the world, located between Russia and China.
“It’s going to be cold there,” she said. “I’ve been told the average temperature is much like that in Michigan, probably about -20 degrees in the winter.”
Kahlua said they actually hoped to be accepted to teach in a more tropical environment, but the entire family was up to the challenge of moving north.
“The kids are very excited,” she said. “Kiersten, age 13, is ready to go tomorrow, if we could.”
Kahlua said she and her husband have a yearlong contract with Quality Schools International and the organization will provide a salary, housing, living and travel expenses for the entire family.
“This really is a career move for us,” she said. “After we have been with the organization for two years, we can rotate between 39 private, non-profit schools in 27 different countries. There is a chance we may end up somewhere more tropical someday.”
The downside to the whole adventure is the monumental task of condensing family belongings from a house full, into what might be carried in one suitcase per person.
“In the next four months we will really trying to pare down,” Kahlua said. “We will be having tons of garage sales, selling our furniture, and getting rid of our car. The packing part is going to be very daunting, especially with five children.”
Kahlua said she expects to be able to buy what they needed once the family gets established in their new country and home in August, but had heard clothing there was expensive and not of good quality.
“I’m trying to plan ahead a bit and buy things they will grow into once we are there,” she said. “The interesting part is that I’ve heard the local people don’t like to be cold, so their buildings are all very well heated. I imagine we will fit in just fine with our jeans and T-shirts.”
The Kahlua children — Kiersten, 13, Elias, 10, Marley and Kanaloa, 5, and Avery, 3 — will finish the school year in Hillsboro, but look forward to an international education with their parents as teachers when they embark on a new life in August.
“We are just all very excited about this opportunity,” Kahlua said.